Netball: 'Spanner' proves the bolter

By Michael Burgess

Anna Thompson attempts to control the ball during game one of the Constellation Cup series against the Diamonds. Photo / Getty Images
Anna Thompson attempts to control the ball during game one of the Constellation Cup series against the Diamonds. Photo / Getty Images

She's already "world famous" in Christchurch - now Anna Thompson has the chance to finally make her mark on the national netball landscape.

Thompson was one of the more impressive performers in the first Constellation Cup test, at the heart of New Zealand's strong third quarter effort which ultimately took the game away from Australia.

Playing in the unfamiliar position of wing attack, Thompson combined well with Laura Langman, providing the platform for Irene van Dyk and Maria Tutaia to send the home side clear.

It's a marked change for Thompson, who has always been fringe rather than forefront for the Ferns.

Now the Tactix captain, she is the only foundation player remaining at the franchise (77 ANZ Championship games) and a Christchurch identity; you know you have made it in the Garden City when you have a cocktail named after you at a local bar (Spannerlicious - mango, berries, lemon, Red Bull and vodka).

But Thompson, nicknamed Spanner, has never been front of mind in the international arena. First selected for the Ferns squad in 2008, she made her debut a year later but has accumulated only 12 caps since then.

Her ambitions have been mostly thwarted by the ever-presence of Maria Tutaia and Irene van Dyk, who have played 71 tests together and monopolised the New Zealand shooting circle for the bulk of the past eight years.

Now the unexpected vacancy at wing attack, with the injury to Camilla Lees and the withdrawal of Liana Leota, has provided the chance for a second coming. Thompson is jousting with Courtney Tairi for the WA bib and on the evidence from Invercargill, has shuffled slightly ahead.

From the moment she came on court on Sunday she looked like she had a point to prove. Mobility may have been an issue in the past but her fitness and speed have improved significantly over the past 18 months, which allowed her to handle the relentless attention of Renee Hallinan, known as one of the toughest markers in the sport.

In possession she showed a willingness to throw the long pass and the eye for a gap in the circle.

"Anna's background as an attacker means she is very effective on the circle edge," says Ferns assistant coach Vicki Wilson.

"She's a natural feeder and has good vision."

However, Tairi is not out of the picture and their battle for the wing attack position will be one of the fascinating subplots of the series. Tairi was solid last Sunday, especially considering she was one of just a handful of Ferns who have had to make their debuts against Australia.

With her tendency to play out wide, Tairi brings a different style to wing attack and it is as much about her teammates adjusting to her style as it is about Tairi finding her feet in the international game.

Meanwhile, the Magic have signed talented teenagers Jamie-Lee Price and Malia Paseka for 2014. Price, 17, the daughter of former Warriors prop Steve, was one of the youngest players ANZ Championship history when she made her Magic debut last year.

- NZ Herald

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